Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Topakas giving Wood some different looks in starting lineup

- By Andrew Robinson

NORTHAMPTO­N >> While she brings a different way of doing things, Sophia Topakas has fit right into Archbishop Wood’s starting lineup this season.

The sophomore guard, who doubles as a midfielder in the fall for the Vikings’ soccer team, does things her teammates may not and it’s hard to argue the results. Topakas has been a lock for the first five all year, the things she does her way adding another dimension to the Vikings’ push for a state title.

Topakas had a solid allaround game as the PCL champions rolled District 2 runner-up Dallas 66-32 on Wednesday night at Catasauqua High School in the PIAA 5A second round.

“It was an adjustment, I expected to be coming off the bench but as I started more, I got to know how my other teammates play and how to work with them,” Topakas said. “I definitely got more settled in as the season went on.”

Against Dallas, Topakas tallied nine points, five rebounds and three assists. Four of the 5-foot-6 guard’s rebounds came off the offensive glass, a fair chunk of the team’s 17 total offensive rebounds that helped mitigate a bit of an off night shooting the ball.

In the fall, Topakas is a holding midfielder for Wood’s soccer team, the kind of position that needs a little bit of everything but also tends to slip under the radar. The Vikings’ potent attack probably didn’t fire off at the high rate it did without Topakas in that role and she’s translated that to the basketball court.

“She plays basketball like a soccer player,” Wood coach Mike McDonald said. “That works for us. She can facilitate, she can help handle. She’s been shooting the ball really well the last couple weeks and she attacks.”

While the sophomore can knock down an outside shot, as can anyone else Wood puts on the floor, her best work offensivel­y has come attacking the basket. It may be a byproduct of her footwork in the fall, but Topakas seems to just slice through the lane whether it’s off the dribble or making a cut to slip past a defender for a shot at the rim.

McDonald added that Topakas also gives Wood some options defensivel­y, the sophomore strong enough to guard bigger players if needed but also fast enough to cover the perimeter.

“I think the cutting, but also sprinting, that definitely gets me some looks,” Topakas said. “I think that’s always been a part of my game.”

Topakas plays travel ball with the Mid-Atlantic Magic, where she’s teammates with fellow Wood sophomore Emma Yogis. A JV player last season, Topakas still got into a few varsity games throughout the year and she was expected to have an increased role this season.

When a knee injury to sophomore Colleen Besachio

took the forward out for the season, Topakas’ role increased even more. While she missed a few fall events with the basketball team due to soccer, McDonald said it really didn’t take long for the guard to find a spot as the fifth starter alongside Wood’s four captains in Ava Renninger, Lauren Greer, Alexa Windish and Emily Knouse.

“Instincts is what I would call it,” McDonald said. “She’s crafty and reacts to what the defense is giving her. She attacks gaps, things like that, she’s a heady player who plays off her instincts and she gives us a lot of energy.”

Topakas chalked up her growth this season as the result of extra time in the gym. Even balancing a fall sport with Wood’s open gyms, the guard always tried to get the extra work in.

Right now, she’s happy to play a more supportive role but if one of her teammates is having an off night or someone ends up in foul trouble, Topakas knows she can step up.

“When I have the ball in my hand, I feel more confident than rushed or frantic,” Topakas said. “I would just try to go out every day and put up shots, even if it was just for 20 minutes, I think having your hand on a ball every day really helps.” FRESH LOOK >> Wood never trailed on Wednesday, the Vikings going ahead 8-0 before Dallas even got a point, so there was plenty of time available for the team’s bench players.

The Vikings’ freshmen, specifical­ly the trio of Sophia McDonald, Regan Przepioski and Makayla Finnegan, gave the team some good minutes. Sophia McDonald, Mike McDonald’s niece, tied for the team lead with 12 points while Finnegan and Przepioski each scored a basket and competed on both ends.

Finnegan’s been the team’s top reserve all season while Sophia McDonald is usually the next one up off the bench. Mike McDonald said he was glad to give Przepioski some extended time on Wednesday, the forward’s role usually more dependent on matchups.

“That’s the hardest role to be in and Regan really stepped up nicely,” McDonald said. “She really understand­s the help positions defensivel­y.

“They’re all getting this experience and they’ll be better each round, so hopefully it pays off for them when they return next year.”

Of Wood’s 17 offensive boards, Greer had seven of them. She and Emily Knouse tied with Sophia McDonald for the team lead with 12 points. Wood also chalked up 17 assists in the win.

Up next for the Vikings is District 2 champion Scranton on Saturday.

 ?? ANDREW ROBINSON — FOR MEDIANEWS GROUP ?? Archbishop Wood’s Sophia Topakas had nine points, five rebounds and three assists to help the Vikings earn a 6632victor­y over Dallas in the PIAA-5A second round on Wednesday, March 13, 2024at Catasauqua High School.
ANDREW ROBINSON — FOR MEDIANEWS GROUP Archbishop Wood’s Sophia Topakas had nine points, five rebounds and three assists to help the Vikings earn a 6632victor­y over Dallas in the PIAA-5A second round on Wednesday, March 13, 2024at Catasauqua High School.

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